Thursday, September 27, 2012

women's rights should not be up for debate

Some big things have been going on in the Canadian political scene lately, between the omnibus crime bill that makes me fume, and the Parti Quebecois getting elected in Quebec, and just the other night a vote on women's rights being taken in parliament. This vote? It got the right result, but the motion never should have been up for debate. (Especially considering that our prime minister ran on a platform that promised not to reopen this debate.)

Canada's laws on abortion are a little, odd. In fact, there's very little in the books on abortion currently - there's no real law saying that abortion is legal, and yet it is. The way that our government currently defines the "begining of life" as the moment of birth. Which, to be fair, is more than a little messed up. The vote the other night was about whether to reopen the debate on when life begins. Which at the end of the day is just a sneaky way of trying to open the debate on abortion.

Which is a debate that has no business being opened. Period. Everyone has their right to their own personal belief on whether abortion is a morally acceptable action. What no one has a right to do is force their own beliefs on another individual. If you think that abortion is wrong, that's ok - I'm not going to argue that point. If someone thinks that their personal beliefs about abortion should affect the access that other women have to that procedure, that I take issue with.

This motion was soundly defeated, by about a two thirds majority. But what scares me: almost a hundred of our government representatives voted in favour of reopening this debate. Including the minister for the status of women. Granted this is a private member's motion in which you are supposed to vote with your conscience, but I have a very hard time reconciling being the minister responsible for women's rights and being open to a motion that could lead to abortion being criminalized. It's a huge conflict of interest: not so much just in this vote, but as part of the job description. If those are her personal beliefs, those are her personal beliefs and while I think they're ridiculous I can respect that they are her own beliefs - but I cannot reconcile the idea of women's rights being represented by a women who doesn't believe in a woman's right to control her own body. 

Here's the thing, I don't know if I think that being pro choice is essential to being a feminist. I have a very hard time reconciling the point of view that abortion should be legally wrong with feminist values, but I don't have a hard stance that being pro choice is essential to feminism. But to be the one women in government whose job it is to be a feminist and to stand up for women's rights when other concerns push back against them? I think that for that it is essential to be pro choice. Standing up for women's rights against all other factors should be part of that job description.

I'm not really sure how to end this. Maybe it's partly because I haven't entirely made up my mind, and maybe it's because the issue is still so up for debate in the news outlets here and I have this feeling like the issue is going to come up again (and again) in coming years. Maybe all I can say is that I feel very uncomfortable with this women representing my rights, as a woman. That perhaps she is not the best person for the job, and perhaps they should look at getting her another portfolio.

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